Football is a team game, so is life.
August 22, 2018
Melbourne, without a doubt, is the world's football capital. We play all codes of the games, which collectively are called 'football'. But the centre of our world in Melbourne is Australian Rules. Along with my siblings, I barrack for Carlton, one of the oldest teams in the league. My dad's cousin, Bob Kelsey played 150 games with Port Melbourne, before being recruited to Carlton in 1947, where he played twenty-one games.
Tom, Stephanie and Natasha are all one-eyed Collingwood supporters. They have always enjoyed attending football matches, including the huge clashes between traditional rivals, such as the one played annually on ANZAC Day between Collingwood and Essendon. These blockbusters are always sell-out games, with up to 90,000 supporters attending. Grand Final day is also the one day where half of the country stops to watch the 'game of the year'.
Living in Melbourne, we are immersed in other codes of football, such as rugby and soccer, and occasionally, grid-iron or American football.
Today, my eyes are opened wide. This morning, we jump on a hop-on-hop-off bus and take a tour, narrated by Dominic Monaghan, who is a well-known (not to me) British actor. We listen to the commentary and after about thirty minutes, alight at the iconic Old Trafford football stadium.
We walk around the forecourt, taking photos of the statue of the United Trinity, players Georgie Best, Denis Law, and Bobby Charlton, I suddenly realise that Tom is maybe a soccer devotee - well, maybe just a Georgie Best fan, since he was Irish, albeit from the North.
We opt to take the guided tour of the stadium and walk around to the entrance to the museum to purchase the tickets. Three burly security guards guard the door, and entry is only permitted after bags are checked and we have a mobile metal detector scanned across our bodies. I am surprised that security for a mere museum is so tight.
As I enter the museum, I am bombarded with images, tropheys, and information. Too cluttered and too much information, I think. We make our way to the meeting point for the tour.
Tours take place every ten minutes, and there are approximately 20 people on our tour. There are two guides, Joanne who provides the commentary, and Alan, who ensures we stay together, and counts each one of us as we move to the next spot. Security is taken very seriously, as we are reminded that we must all stay together.
We enter the stadium and sit in one of the hallowed seats of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand.
Joanne proudly sweeps her hands around the stadium as she announces that it takes just under 75,000 football fans, 3,100 of which sit over there. She points to a small 'wedge' of seats at the short end of the field and indicates that the fans of the visiting team sits in this area, cut off from the rest of the spectators.
After our experience in Preston on Saturday, the reality is driven in like a bolt of lightning. This is what football is to the United Kingdom? Over-the-top security, police, and segregation of fans? How can the fans enjoy the game under these circumstances?
According to Wikipedia, football hooliganism is the term used to describe disorderly, violent, of destructive behaviour perpetrated by spectators at a football event. The first recorded instances of football hooliganism in the modern game allegedly occurred during the 1880s in England, a period when gangs of supporters had intimidated neighbourhoods, in addition to attacking referees, and opposing supporters and players.
Given that this behaviour has been around for so long, I cannot believe that it was not 'nipped in the bud' then nor can I believe it is tolerated today.
I am so glad that our children can not only safely attend football games, but they can safely sit wherever they like, and mix with all fans, then safely return home on public transport. And our blockbuster games attract far more spectators and fans that can fit into Old Trafford.
Suddenly, the shine has tarnished from my day. We do not approve of segregation, but it is fully acceptable in the UK football world under the disguise of safety and security.
I suggest these large soccer teams get together and find solutions to the problems they have with bad behaviour at football matches. There is no sporting 'spirit' in these stadia.
Is football a team sport? Maybe everywhere in the world but the UK.
I hope I never see the day that our sports fans and spectators are not only segregated in the arenas but on public transport, as I have experienced this week.
Title Quote: Joe Namath (American football quarterback)
Accommodation: Premier Inn Manchester City Centre, Piccadilly. 72 Dale St, Manchester M1 2HR, UK